WASHINGTON, March 28 – Faulting an “unprecedented break with past practice,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee ranking member, on Tuesday called on the panel’s chairman to schedule public hearings on President Donald Trump’s “morally obscene” budget blueprint.
Sanders said the president’s proposal “includes unacceptably painful cuts to programs that senior citizens, children, persons with disabilities and working people rely on to feed their families, heat their homes, put food on the table and educate their children.
“I am very concerned.” Sanders (I-Vt.) added in a letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), “that the Budget Committee has not scheduled a single hearing on the president’s preliminary budget request for fiscal year 2018.”
Sanders said public hearings would shed light on the White House proposal to add $84 billion to the Pentagon’s budget over the next year and a half. The increase would come at a time when the United States already spends more on defense than the next 12 countries combined, when contractor fraud is rampant and when the Pentagon has tried to bury evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste unearthed by The Washington Post.
To pay for the big boost in military outlays, Trump would slash the budget for programs that millions of seniors, working families with children, the sick and the most vulnerable rely on to feed their families, heat their homes, and put a roof over their heads.
Among other cuts, the administration would eliminate a life-saving home heating assistance program that has helped 6.3 million Americans stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer; cut after-school programs for 1.1 million children; carve into Head Start services for some 90,000 youngsters; cut grant programs that help 1.5 million college students and take $6.2 billion from affordable housing programs for 200,000 families.
Breaking a campaign pledge, he also would reduce investments in repairing crumbling roads and bridges and other bricks-and-mortar infrastructure projects that he promised a $1 trillion infusion. The Trump budget would also slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by $2.6 billion, or 31.4 percent.
The lack of hearings in a break with the committee’s longstanding practice of closely and publicly reviewing the initial budgets submitted by incoming administrations. A series of seven hearings began in 2001 just one day after President George W. Bush released his first budget. Eight years later, the same Senate panel also heard from a string of top-ranking officials in the new administration of President Barack Obama.
Under law, Congress is required to complete a budget by April 15, less than one month from now. “I don’t see how that deadline could possibly be met. It is incumbent upon us to start scheduling hearings on the budget as soon as possible,” Sanders wrote.
To read the letter, click here.